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“How’s business? How are sales?” These two questions give a quick pulse check on your current sales health. But the bigger question business owners really need to be asked is, “How’s your sales pipeline?”

Why? Because your sales today are the result of the health of your sales pipeline last month. But your sales next month, next quarter or next year will be a reflection of the health of your pipeline today.

So what exactly do we mean by sales pipeline? In your business, your sales pipeline is essentially whatever structure you have in place to attract and qualify leads, and then to nurture them through the buying process to become a customer, and then hopefully a raving fan of your business.

How healthy is your sales pipeline?

So often we forget to talk about the health of our sales pipeline. This is the forgotten part of sales in many companies, in the less-glamourous section along with properly signed contracts and up-to-date invoicing.

If your business was a human body, the sales pipeline is like discussing the liver. When was the last time you talked about your liver? And yet the liver is a filter for our blood, as well as being one of the organs that breaks down old or damaged blood cells. The forgotten liver plays a starring role in all the body’s metabolic processes. Many people don’t think about their liver until there’s problem with it.

Your sales pipeline can be just the same. When sales are humming along, many business owners forget how long it took to get all those customers on board. Especially in high-tech solutions, it can often several months or more to get a customer into a meeting, let alone agreeing to purchase. Not to mention ensuring that the invoice is fully paid.

It takes such an effort to create and sustain a business, that once things really get going, the excitement is so great that it’s easy for business owners to get caught up in the now and forget to keep looking ahead.

Is your business one click away from sales oblivion?

Without realising it, many businesses are potentially just a click or two away from oblivion. Everything might be riding on those couple of large customers, leaving the business exposed if something changes in their customers’ businesses.

Many businesses forget to monitor the health of their sales pipeline. Even if you’re turning over a healthy amount, keep checking your sales pipeline and tracking those customers who are about to purchase, as you never know when you might need to see some rapid action with your sales.

A healthy sales pipeline is your best indicator of what you’ll be doing six months now. Will you be eating caviar or stale bread?

Just like the liver, your sales pipeline can only be neglected and abused for so long before you start to notice some issues.

Businesses with large projects are especially vulnerable to client change and can easily come unstuck if a project finishes earlier than expected. If your business concentrates on a few large customers, that’s okay so long as you’re constantly attracting and qualifying new potential customers, continuing to grow existing customers, approaching new customers and following up with previous customers.

In other words – you’ve got to keep being proactive about your sales and the health of your sales pipeline. What you ideally want, is a couple of customers waiting in the wings, so that if a project finishes early, you’ve got someone else to slot into that space.

Taking positive action on your sales pipeline

There are all kinds of discussions we could have about sales pipelines. Sales and marketing have really changed over the last few years and no discussion about sales pipelines is complete without reference to social selling and digital marketing, and the important part that these often play in helping you to attract new customers.

There are so many apps and CRMs (customer relationship management systems) out there, that some discussions around sales pipelines can disintegrate into a standoff about who’s got the best tech behind them. We’ll be talking about some of the available tools and what you should consider when thinking about tools of the trade in future articles.

After talking with numerous business owners, two things really stand out. Firstly, all the tech in the world won’t save your sales if you don’t take positive action. Secondly, many businesses really are just a couple of clicks away from sales oblivion.

Measure then manage

Measuring the total value of your pipeline and the number and value of sales opportunities at each stage of your sales process is an obvious place to start, but here are ten additional things you can do right now to build a healthy sales pipeline.

1) Check your current customers

Take an objective, honest assessment of your current customer relationships. See where you could improve these, and where they could be vulnerable to change.

2) Check the market

Are there signs of change on the horizon? If so, what can you and your business do to prepare for what lies ahead?

3) Check your offer

The best way to grow sales is to have a fantastic offer, a set of factors about your business and what you do that makes your customers jump through hoops to work with you. If you’ve got such an offer, bottle it and share it with your staff. Make sure everyone is clear on what’s special about your business and how you serve your customers best.

4) Check your data

Are those large customers paying on time? Are you serving them with your best products and services, the ones where you deliver the most value for the highest profit level? Large customers who pay late and provide just enough revenue to help you keep the lights on, are not as secure as you might initially think.

5) Get social

Awareness is the first step of any customer journey. Social media is a low cost way to build awareness and get connected to your tribe. As you grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow up with everyone, so make sure your social selling – before, during and after the sale – is really working for you.

6) Leverage the available technology

AI (Artificial Intelligence), BI (Business Intelligence) and marketing automation tools are no longer only for large companies and huge budgets. What technology is available to you, to analyse your database, your customers or to deploy as part of your digital marketing strategy?

7) Ask for feedback

That’s right – ask your current customers what they really think of you. Where are they happy? Is there anywhere that you’re missing the mark? Most important of all – what are the stories that they’re telling others when they recommend you? These stories are your key to future sales growth.

8) Get a CRM

Yes, your customer relationship management system. If you haven’t got one, we most definitely need to talk. In this age of cloud-based tools, distributed teams and exponential change, not to mention unexpected natural events – businesses need to protect their data and ensure they maintain visibility over their sales and their sales pipeline. As your team grows, you won’t be able to personally check all their work – this is where your CRM will help you to understand what’s really happening in your business.

9) Use your CRM

Perhaps we could have combined points 8 and 9, but they are both so important it’s worth giving them the space. Once you have got a CRM, make sure that everyone who touches your customers from social media through to new business development, account management and customer success is logging their interactions into the CRM. Used well, your CRM is a rich source of data that your business can use to grow strategically. Used poorly or not at all, CRMs are almost a complete waste of time. Get the full value from your customer data by making sure that you have all relevant information at your fingertips.

10) Talk to your team

If you’re concerned about sales, don’t bottle this up. Talk to your team. They’re helping to serve your customers and may have insights that you just don’t have the opportunity to see. What gems of information can they share to help you grow your sales?

Having a healthy sales pipeline is critical to your business as you plan your growth strategy for the year ahead. Just like a liver problem that suddenly becomes apparent, realising that your business could be in a precarious position with your sales can be overwhelming. But better to know that now so you can nurse it back to health, than to find out when it’s too late to turn things around.

Mary Crampton is the owner and principal consultant at Magnify Consulting Like this? Get entrepreneur articles by email once a month. Source Confirm your free digital mag/s here: Marketing Online NZ Entrepreneur NZ Sales Manager NZ Fisher Australian Sales Leader   Subscribe

The post How to build a healthy sales pipeline appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Northland Inc is offering a unique opportunity for businesses to drop into The Orchard on Thursday and Friday to join its free connectivity service, kiteAO, as part of the run-up to Techweek.

Launched by Northland Inc last month, kiteAO is a service designed to enable businesses to connect more readily with other businesses in the region.

The service is aimed at technology and food and beverage businesses in Northland and is open to anybody who needs to connect to these fast growing sectors in Northland.

“It will appeal to business owners who want to create new connections, link-up directly with other businesses or even for those with skills to catch the eye of business owners,” said Jiveen MacGillivray, Growth Advisor and Innovation Specialist at Northland Inc.

“kiteAO is all about knowing what skills and services are on tap in Northland and connecting with each other. It’s also a great way to help launch Techweek.”

Techweek kicks off across New Zealand on Monday, May 20, and runs for six days. Northland will be hosting more than 11 events and Northlanders can get connected to over 60 events, including on-line events.

“The region is recognised as a place that encourages entrepreneurship, and Northland’s Highlight Event – Startup Innovation Showcase – takes place on Friday, 24 May in Whangarei and on livestream.”

What: Northland Inc business owner drop-in days Where: The Orchard, Level 1, 35 Walton Street, Whangarei When: 9am – 5pm, Thursday 16 May – Friday 17 May

The post Chance for Northland business owners to connect appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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New Zealand’s biggest business accelerator, Lightning Lab, is today announcing the startups selected to take part in its first-ever programme for businesses in the tourism sector, an industry ripe for innovation.

Lightning Lab Tourism focuses on building a sustainable innovation ecosystem for the future of tourism in New Zealand.

Of almost 70 applications, the following teams have been selected to take part:

  • Road Guru: connecting local drivers and guides with visitors
  • PowerTrip: integrating electric vehicles into the tourism industry
  • Stay Native: sharing authentic indigenous experiences
  • Hidden Gems: an A to Z catalogue of all the special spots that make Christchurch unique
  • AirGuides: a marketplace where travellers can book trips, curated by vetted writers, bloggers and local experts
  • CHU NZ: exploring the use of sustainable facilities for road trippers
  • Tourism Ticker: media, data and analysis service providing insights to the tourism industry

These startup teams will be joined by two industry project teams;

  • SOUTH Project: supported by The Christchurch International Airport and Air New Zealand, will focus on bringing better visitor flow insights to regional tourism offices and operators.
  • Voluntourism project: supported by the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, will develop volunteer-oriented tourism opportunities that could change the face of tourism in New Zealand.

Teams will work directly with tourism industry partners and practice market validation and product development methods used by companies like Google, IDEO, and Tesla.

They’ll be provided with full wrap-around support from startup coaches, business leaders, advisors and mentors to help validate and grow their businesses.

At the end of the three months, each venture will have the opportunity to pitch to their supporters and the broader tourism sector in a large Demo Day event, to be held at the new Christchurch Town Hall.

Teams seeking investment will also get to present to some of the top angel investors and early-stage venture funds in the country in a separate investor-only event.

Jeffrey Ling, Lightning Lab Tourism’s Programme Director says:

“Tourism is one of NZ’s biggest industries and tourism operators are some of the most innovative, adventurous people in NZ. I’m excited to come back to Christchurch — my former home of ten years — to help this very capable cohort test, validate, and ultimately grow their businesses.”

Lightning Lab Tourism is supported by Callaghan Innovation, Christchurch International Airport, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Air New Zealand, Centrality, ChristchurchNZ, Department of Conservation, Data Ventures, MYOB, Qrious, Amadeus, AWS, Deloitte and Simmonds Stewart.

Like this? Get entrepreneur articles by email once a month. Source Confirm your free digital mag/s here: Marketing Online NZ Entrepreneur NZ Sales Manager NZ Fisher Australian Sales Leader   Subscribe

The post Startups announced for Lightning Lab Tourism accelerator appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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New Zealand ranks in the Top 10 for Agtech & New Food in the largest global report about startup success and how regions can develop thriving startup ecosystems.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) has been launched at The Next Web Conference. The GSER is the world’s most comprehensive and widely-read research on startups based on data from thousands of startup founders and research on millions of companies.

The 2019 GSER provides insights and guidance to public and private leaders in dozens of countries and cities — from Bahrain to New Zealand— about how to cultivate vibrant startup ecosystems. The report outlines key success factors for startups, constituting the new science for entrepreneurial ecosystem development.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment engaged Startup Genome to benchmark New Zealand against more than 50 ecosystems globally.

New Zealand’s #GSER2019 highlights:

  • Top 10 Global Ecosystem for Agtech & New Food
  • Top 5 Activation Ecosystem for Life Sciences
  • Created $1.4b in Ecosystem Value with $150m in early stage funding over last 2.5 years
  • Regional sub-sector strengths are Life Sciences, and Agtech & New Food

Excerpt from 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report

This year, #GSER2019 looks at trends among startup ecosystems in areas such as funding and talent. It also examines the growth and decline of sub-sectors, both globally and in individual ecosystems.

One key finding shows that Deep Tech startups — those relying heavily on intellectual property — are the fastest-growing group globally. The four fastest-growing Startup Sub-Sectors are Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics, Blockchain, Agtech & New Food, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). By contrast, Startup Sub-Sectors showing decline are Edtech, Digital Media, Gaming, and Adtech.

Key overall highlights from the #GSER2019 include:

  • There is no “next” Silicon Valley — instead, there are 30 startup ecosystems around the world that will soon lay claim to a parallel vibrancy and economic productivity.
  • Movement within top 30 ranking: Paris cracked the top 10, moving up two spots to #9 overall; Amsterdam-StartupDelta moved up four spots to #15 overall; San Diego and Washington, D.C. cracked the top 20 for the first time.
  • While early-stage funding for startups has more than doubled since 2011-12, it has risen by a factor of 8 in Agtech & New Food — and quadrupled in AI.

“As our economies transition to the fourth industrial revolution, we — communities driving the global startup revolution — have a major role to play,” said JF Gauthier, Founder and CEO of Startup Genome.

“Not only can startup ecosystems act as the top engine of job creation and economic growth, but our startups can also help solve many of our society’s biggest challenges including climate change and inequality.”

To learn about more than 50 entrepreneurial ecosystems across the world download the full report in PDF here.

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Brand strategist James Hurman explains why just having a better product is not enough to make your customers care about your business.

93% of drivers think they’re better than average. A researcher called Ola discovered that when he asked Americans to rank their driving skill in the 1980’s.

Similarly, 90% of college professors think they’re above average teachers, 42% of engineers think they’re in the top 5% and only 1% of high school students think their social skills are below average.

They call it illusory superiority. Or ‘the above average effect’ if you have a below-average tolerance for complicated words.

What’s it got to do with business?

Well, starting a business has become popular.

So popular, that the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor estimated in 2015 that 100 million new businesses are started each year.

So each year, there are 100 million new businesses in the world talking to the same pool of potential employees, customers and investors.

How many of them do you think believe their product or service is better than average?

All of them?

Probably.

Now I’m not saying yours isn’t – I bet it is.

But next time you’re talking to somebody about your business, imagine how many other businesses they’ve listened to telling them about their better product.

Because having a better product just makes you the same as the 100 million other businesses who started the same year as you.

What’s your story?

What makes you different is your story and by ‘story’ I don’t mean your marketing campaign.

I mean what you say to someone when you want to make them want to come and work for you, or invest in you, or buy what you’ve got.

What you say when you don’t want them to merely ‘comprehend’ what you do.

What you say when you want them to care.

Things like why you started your company, what made you care about the problem your product solves, your vision for what you want to achieve with your business.

This is the stuff that people aren’t used to hearing but it’s the stuff that makes them want to hear more.

And it’s also the stuff that sticks with them after you leave.

Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you said, and forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

Great products on their own don’t usually make people feel very much.

But great stories sure do.

They make people feel surprised. Or compassionate. Or inspired. Or confident. Or involved.

And that’s when they go from disregarding you as just another one of the many who think they’re better, to remembering you as one of the few who really are.

James Hurman is founder and CEO at Storytech. Save 10% on your story at Storytech here and raise funds for #nzentrepreneur at the same time using the code STNZENTRE Like this? Get entrepreneur articles by email once a month. Source Confirm your free digital mag/s here: Marketing Online NZ Entrepreneur NZ Sales Manager NZ Fisher Australian Sales Leader   Subscribe

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NZ Entrepreneur - New Zealand's Star.. by #nzentrepreneur - 1w ago

Who: LevelTwo
What: Startup Support, R&D Space, Coworking Space, Events, Mentoring
HQ: 24 Balfour Road, Parnell, Auckland
INTRODUCTION

LevelTwo grows deep tech startups from early-stage to global impact. We provide a home and support for startups on the bleeding edge of science and technology.

WHO DO YOU WORK WITH AND WHAT KEY CHALLENGES DO YOU HELP THEM SOLVE?

LevelTwo facilitates development for “deep tech” startups.

Deep tech refers to radical advances in science and engineering that has the ability to profoundly revolutionise the way we live. These developments require flexible and open-minded spaces, at a low cost, while the companies are in pre-revenue stages.

Our space allows companies to go from concepts, to prototypes, to pilot models and then we help facilitate the funding and logistics of going full scale (and graduate from LevelTwo).

LevelTwo resident O2O2 aims to revolutionise air pollution protection with their cutting-edge face-wear.

SERVICES

R&D & Coworking Space

The main service that we provide is the renting of space that can be used for R&D (Research and Development”). The pricing scheme is flexible depending on the company, type and size of the space required. We also connect companies with our network of investors, IP consultants, scientists, and others within the deep tech industry.

Resources

We have a very collaborative approach to our resources on site.

We have PC1 and PC2 labs, as well as a range of other laboratory equipment that may be used.

We also have manufacturing capabilities with CNC on-site. The same collaborative approach is taken with knowledge, and we openly share many tips and learning resources within our community.

LanzaTech and Rocket Lab (founder Peter Beck pictured) are two LevelTwo alumni companies, with values exceeding $1Bn each.

HIGHLIGHTS

As of 2019, LevelTwo has two alumni companies, Rocket Lab and LanzaTech, whose seperate values are worth over $1 billion each.

There is over $600 million in investment in LevelTwo companies, and this has created over $1 billion of economic growth in NZ.

LevelTwo companies also hold over three-hundred patents.

WHAT EXCITES YOUR TEAM ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO?

We believe that for New Zealand to keep punching above our weight on a global scale requires a paradigm shift in the way we approach problems.

We believe deep tech and the revolutionary ideas that come with it has the ability to power global solutions to the we are facing.

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE WITH THE NZ ENTREPRENEUR COMMUNITY?

You have a vision. We have the space!

GET IN TOUCH

Web: https://leveltwo.tech
Twitter: https://twitter.com/leveltwonz
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/leveltwonz

The post LevelTwo appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb.

I meet a lot of entrepreneurs. I also meet a lot of people who want to be entrepreneurs and ask me, “When do you think the best time is to start a business?”

Like the tree in the proverb above, it is no different when it comes to entrepreneurship, and to the dismay of many people who ask, my answer is always the same… “Now.”

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, just as you cannot be a “swimmer” until you have jumped into the pool and begun swimming, you cannot be an “entrepreneur” if you have not taken the first step and begun your first business. Talking about it, thinking about it, reading about it… yes that will help you. But like swimming, the real lessons don’t start until you’ve jumped into the pool.

Secondly, entrepreneurship – like anything else worthwhile – can take years of practice and experience, to develop the skills, mindset, knowledge, understanding and personal qualities needed to build successful businesses time and time again. The sooner you get on with it, the quicker you’ll learn.

A big reason people never get started is because they want to try and eliminate the possibility of anything going wrong when they do eventually get around to it. They are always waiting for a better idea, a better economic climate, a better government, more time, more money, more knowledge, more confidence.

But the reality is that things will go wrong, you will make mistakes and you will learn your biggest lessons from the mistakes you make, so the quicker you get them out of the way, the better.

Conversely, the longer you procrastinate, delay and put off the inevitable, the longer you’ll put off your success as an entrepreneur. Simple as that.

I then get the usual raft of responses… “But I don’t have any good ideas”, “But I don’t have any experience”, “But I don’t have any money”, “But I don’t have any time”, “But I have kids”, “But I have a full time job”, “But I have a mortgage”, “But I’ve worked so hard to get where I am already”, “But I’m too young”, “But I’m too old”… and so on and so forth. To which I reply, “But that’s exactly what the job of the entrepreneur is – to start and build something great, in spite of all these challenges.”

The first step in becoming an entrepreneur is to understand and develop the entrepreneur mindset.

Lack of money? An entrepreneur finds a way to raise some or make do without it. Lack of experience? An entrepreneur will start and learn quickly as they go, or find people with the experience they need. Lack of a “great” idea? An entrepreneur goes to work on the best idea they have right now, knowing that will lead to further (better) opportunities as they get moving. Lack of time? An entrepreneur finds a way to make time.

At the end of the day it comes down to your commitment to being an entrepreneur. How badly do you want it? Are you prepared to let life and your current circumstances determine what you can have and when you can have it?

Or are you prepared to accept full responsibility for the achievement of your goals in life, and to find a way to make it happen no matter what?

If your answer to this question is “Yes”, then the truth is that you have everything you need to get started, right now.

There is no such thing as the “perfect” time. But for a true entrepreneur, it is always the right time.

Richard Liew is founder and editor at #nzentrepreneur Like this? Get entrepreneur articles by email once a month. Source Confirm your free digital mag/s here: Marketing Online NZ Entrepreneur NZ Sales Manager NZ Fisher Australian Sales Leader   Subscribe

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Auckland fitness professional Melissa Chalmers is launching an app called StrongHer to help Kiwi women feel and look their best selves.

The app, which launches this week after a few weeks of beta testing, is a full wraparound training, eating, mental health, and motivational companion app for women pursuing personal health.

“StrongHer is a personal trainer in your pocket,” Chalmers explains.

“That’s the goal we set out with, and we’re so proud of what we created. All women can have access to my workouts, nutritionist-approved food guide, and mental health tips whenever and wherever suits them.

“You can use StrongHer to knock out killer workouts in the gym or in the comfort of your own home. You can use it to achieve whatever health and fitness goals you have; everything is totally customised to helping you achieve what you want.”

Chalmers has been inspiring hundreds of thousands of women through her Instagram page, which has more than 350,000 followers. That audience has grown from virtually zero in just the past year.

Her own journey to health began by wanting to get in shape for her wedding.

What started as a purely aesthetic goal soon became much more than that as she began noticing huge positive changes to her mind, not just her body.

She began feeling great and decided to use her career to help other women make the same transition she has.

“My message is simple: being healthy doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym seven times a week, twice daily and eat unrealistic meal plans. Being healthy is doing some form of exercise at least three times a week.

“Being healthy is not restricting food groups, but moderating the food you eat. It’s about being balanced, realistic, and not getting into a self-hating mindset which seems to be so prevalent in the Insta-health world.

“With all the fad diets being forced down people’s throats by so-called ‘health experts’ on social media, I advocate a much healthier lifestyle of mental and physical health based on realistic goals and lifestyles.

“Most importantly, my goal is to help women jump into a journey to health because they feel empowered by doing so, not because they feel pressured or guilt-tripped into it by themselves or society. Healthy living should be positive and fun, not threatening.”

Once downloaded (on iOS or Android), the StrongHer app asks women what their goals are in using it and how much they want to train.

Tailored video workouts, led by Chalmers, are created for the women to follow. They are encouraged to log meals and water intake each day so they can track whether they are reaching recommended nutritional intakes.

Eventually, StrongHer aims to have other trainers offer workouts through the platform.

Chalmers founded StrongHer with husband Bill-George Chalmers. Both were group fitness instructors and personal trainers at Les Mills in Auckland for a decade before deciding to launch StrongHer so they can reach more women on a global scale.

In testing, almost 40,000 women have downloaded the app.

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Having built one of New Zealand’s largest ICT recruitment agencies and as an active early stage investor himself, Josh Comrie is a familiar face in the New Zealand tech startup community. Recently he experienced a case of role reversal when it was his turn to pitch for investment for his new AI startup Ambit. #nzentrepreneur editor Richard Liew asked Josh what it was like having the shoe on the other foot.

Startup founders often report that the most stressful part of their role is not the long hours and sleepness nights, or dealing with a seemingly endless raft of technical, staffing or business development difficulties, but rather the process of preparing for, finding, pitching and negotiating the often vital lifeblood of early stage businesses – angel or VC funding.

So when we spoke to seasoned investor – now tech startup founder – Josh Comrie, about his experience closing an oversubscribed $1.75M capital raise from investors such as K1W1, Lewis Holdings and NZVIF, we were intrigued to hear his take on the process.

Comrie’s current “day job” sees him fronting AI conversation platform Ambit as founder and CEO, but he has been an active investor in early stage companies for nearly two decades and is a founding member and director at prominent angel investment group Flying Kiwi Angels.

Having been on the receiving end of countless investment pitches himself, we wanted to know how helpful his experience as an investor proved to be when it was his turn to go ‘cap-in-hand’.

His assessment? Let’s just say that if you have ever been through this process yourself, you might be comforted to hear that despite all his years as an investor, Comrie insists nothing had prepared him for the experience of being a fundraising founder. A grueling experience that he says, despite his own knowledge of the investment process, still required two months of intensive activity just to get through the due diligence.

“I couldn’t have anticipated how different it is to be on the other side of the table even if someone had sat me down and walked me through it,” says Comrie.

“It’s just so different being an investor versus being an entrepreneur raising money. It has made me a more balanced investor from the perspective of understanding the entrepreneurs journey.”

A not uncommon sentiment among founders is the difficulty of conveying the opportunity they see in their minds-eye, in a way that makes the opportunity compelling to would-be investors.

“When you’re in the thick of it… you have great clarity on the forces that will impact on the businesses success. From your go-to-market proposition, to competitor movements, to customer demand and stories, to staffing needs, to pain points across your own business. You look at it all day everyday.

“But investors dip in and dip out of that, and will be looking at multiple [opportunities] at any one time. They’ll only ever have a surface understanding of what your business is, what your technical competency is, the problems you’re endeavouring to resolve on behalf of your customers, how you go about delivering your revenue model – they only ever get a little snippet of insight into it.”

Comrie also acknowledges the patience and perseverance required when seeking capital.

“I found myself going through repeated exercises of having to educate people on the business, particularly given our type of business – firstly, being artificial intelligence; secondly, being delivered across a Saas medium; thirdly, creating experiences that were unfamiliar to people.

“There were so many different touchstones within the business that were unfamiliar to people so they couldn’t draw any comparison point and so you find yourself continuing the education exercise whilst trying not to get too bogged down in the detail and ensuring you’re focused on the long term and the future prospects of the business.

Comrie says adjusting your messaging to match different types of investor profiles and their unique motivations is key.

“As an investor you’re not buying the “today” business you’re buying the “future” business – you’re not hoping for a dividend return, you’re wanting a great exit in the future.

“So [as a founder] being able to inform people sufficiently… take them on the journey… get them excited… give them the right level of information whilst not feeling the frustration that can arise because you’re telling the same people the same thing just in a different way, or you’re telling 10 different people the same story repeatedly – it’s just a thoroughly different exercise.”

Comrie describes Ambit as an “omni channel” AI driven conversation platform. They harness artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning to help organisations automate the countless conversations traditionally carried out by staff during interactions with customers, team members and suppliers.

The Ambit platform enables deployment of services in the form of automated text based “Messenger” type conversations (think chatbots), voice and voice-to-text conversations, and even digital avatars – “seeing” and “hearing” screen-based bots with human like faces and increasingly sophisticated verbal and non-verbal conversational capability.

With 15 current enterprise customers in New Zealand and Australia including names such as ACC, Tower, KPMG and Hallensteins Glassons, Comrie says funds from December’s round will be allocated evenly between product development and “go-to-market”, including key sales hires.

As if running a cutting edge technology startup and an active angel investment group wasn’t enough to drive the average person to distraction, Comrie somehow also manages to juggle what he calls a “reasonable sized” commercial and industrial property portfolio along with all the usual family, friend and community commitments.

Rising at 5am for exercise and meditation are integral parts of the success formula he says enables him to stay on top of the many varied roles in his life at any one time – something Comrie refers to as a “portfolio” life which requires the careful balancing of sometimes many conflicting demands.

That and grouping “like” things together when allocating his time, what Comrie calls “chunking things down”, are key for productivity.

“Meditation is about clarity of mind and cleanliness of mind and one of the reasons I don’t need a lot of sleep is because of my regular meditation practise.”

And how does Comrie compare his current journey with the building of his previous professional services business, the ICT recruitment company Potentia, which he exited in 2015?

“That was a fairly simple professional services and go-to-market model, and so it was a very different proposition than the Ambit business, which is a genuine bona fide startup. The challenges, the execution, the cadence and all the things you have to deal with are so different in a genuine startup.

“Everything is unproven and you’re constantly dealing with uncertainty. I frequently step back and think to myself, ‘Imagine if my first business had been a startup?’

“It would have been overwhelming. It would have been a phenomenally different and difficult experience.”♦

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The post Interview: Josh Comrie – Ambit appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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IoT (The ‘Internet of Things’) has the potential to do some amazing things for New Zealand businesses, but at the very heart of it, people will want to know how it will help their organisation grow – or more to the point, bring in greater financial gains.

So how can IoT be monetised? And how have some businesses already achieved this?

Productivity and revenue models are the big winners

For a lot of organisations, particularly those with very embedded processes and procedures, IoT is not likely to change overnight what they offer and produce. But the trick to understanding ‘where the money is’ in IoT is looking at it from a different angle, says Nick Hadlee, Practice Manager of Enterprise Solutions at Intergen.

“I think this is more about productivity, not new revenue streams per se. It comes down to working smarter, not harder, and investing in people in your business.

“With IoT automating some of your processes, you will essentially be able to deliver more of your service, because you won’t need people to do all the manual things. This then has the potential to create brand new services to the street, as a by-product of your initial IoT application.”

However there is also the opportunity to change your business model, because of what IoT capabilities allow you to do differently.

For example if you have an asset that gets taken to market in some way, what would happen if you didn’t actually transfer ownership from your business to a customer? Offering a product (or maybe even a service) at a day rate, you may be able to introduce it to the market at a better, more competitive price point.

This ‘pay as you go’ is effectively turning a product into a service, and offers consumers more flexibility to use what they need, when they need it. And there are plenty of examples of this already dominating the business landscape; Uber, Airbnb, Lime Scooters, and even Rolls-Royce are seeing the benefits of a new model structure, selling flight hours instead of plane engines.

Hamish Dobson, also at Intergen as a Principal Solutions Architect, reflects on one client who had an established business, but due to the data it had been able to store, it was actually able to make financial gains from a new workflow that wasn’t a part of their core service.

“An aviation customer had been collecting a lot of IoT data, of which had great commercial value to other parties due to the insights they could derive from it. So that was where the monetisation came into play – it was the by-product of IoT.”

Start by looking at cost structures

While there is actually no guide on, ‘how to monetise IoT in your business now,’ Nick has a starting place for organisations wanting to know how it could work for them.

“It’s about looking at the cost profile in your business, and if there was a big lump of outgoings to a particular place – for example maintenance – then it is about considering whether you can improve the cost of that. And how.

“So understand what is costing you money, and determine whether if you invested in improving how you manage it, you will get a substantial return on investment from IoT.”

What risks come from not adopting IoT

For some businesses, they may be content to continue with how they function, with no immediate need to make changes. However with this comes the risk of no longer being on an even playing field with competitors.

“Businesses will likely struggle to compete on price, and/or quality of service, which of course are two key areas of a business,” says Hamish.

“But then it would potentially reflect on everything – staff retention, acquisition, being seen as a modern/technology-first business. They are simply not going to be as efficient as someone who is focused on the optimisation of those processes, the integrity of their product and supply chain, and how their workforce is actually working.”

And while Nick says that perhaps not everyone needs to go out and invest in an IoT platform – because like the example above they could find value just by collecting data and insights from their customers – there will likely come a time when they will fall behind in their industry.

“It is about businesses moving forward and understanding ‘who is our customer and what do they want?’ because if they don’t, their competitors might be offering the digital touchpoints and interaction that the consumer is looking for.”

Keen to learn about implementing IOT in your business? Check out Microsoft’s latest guide and free IOT online courses here.

The post How to monetise IOT – the bottom line appeared first on NZ Entrepreneur Magazine.

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